As I have pointed out on the Vridar blog, there has been a trend in recent years to attempt to re-brand “theistic evolutionism” (that is, evolution with divine guidance) as “evolutionary creationism”. Today, Fred Clark wrote a post entitled “Why I am not a theistic evolutionist and why I do not ‘believe in’ evolution”. This post makes the perfectly legitimate point that there is no such term as “theistic chemistry” (or, I might add, a “theistic history of Israel”). I suspect this is due to the idea, commonly held in practice, that God does not influence that which can be explained by science, and that this is due to the traditional practical separation of the ‘divinely explained’ and ‘naturally explainable’.
Few creationists of any stripe would claim that God is directly involved in the process of changing the states of chemicals, but, if they are logically consistent, they will recognize that they believe that God created each and every bit of matter in the Universe in the beginning and has a plan for each and every bit of matter, and that this plan is not necessarily consistent with the laws of chemistry or physics. However, this recognized belief can not be classified as “theistic chemistry” (except if the word is interpreted as below), as divine intervention is the exception in the creationist view of chemistry, not the rule. This is the case for all fields of science that do not deal with the origins of the Universe, Earth, the continents, animals that look similar or a nation said to be divinely-chosen.
Thus, events that are explainable by science, excepting those I have pointed out above, are typically viewed by theists as unconnected with the god they believe in. It appears that Fred Clark views all natural phenomena, including those I have mentioned above, as explainable by science, and views God as being mostly unconnected with the Universe or has a view of God that is equivalent with the above view in practice/terms of observable reality. This would make him not an ‘evolutionary creationist’, but merely and a believer of evolution with a practically unconnected belief in a god.
Let us now analyze, as New/Gnu Atheists, the importance of the distinction between those like my interpretation of Fred Clark and the Evolutionary Creationists. Those who have seemingly practically unconnected beliefs in evolution and a god still need to be dissuaded from their theism, though at first glance, their beliefs may seem less harmful than those of the evolutionary creationists. However, the god of those such as my interpretation of Fred Clark still may provide an interpretative framework for what happens in nature. While my interpretation of Fred Clark may state that to him, “theistic evolutionism” is as nonsensical as “theistic chemistry”, as long as either chemistry, gravity, or evolution is viewed through the interpretive lens of a plan of a god, this provides ammunition to the accommodationists, who claim that religion is compatible with science. Thus, a museum placard stating that, say, gravity, can be viewed through the lens of a god, quite offensive to us New Atheists, would cause no offense for my reconstruction of Fred Clark. Viewed this way, a “theistic chemistry” does emerge, in practice no different from “atheistic chemistry”, but in theory being very different, indeed.
We might guess that “theistic evolution” refers to the perspective of Christians and many other theists that God is ever-present and that nothing is separate from God’s over-arching providence — that by God “all things consist,” as the Apostle Paul wrote. Perhaps this is all this adjective signifies here.
But I’m afraid that won’t do. If the word is simply meant to express something that all Christians believe to be true of every process and phenomenon, then we must somehow account for the fact that we do not use it in reference to any other such process or phenomenon.
-Yet, I fear that the accomodationists will use it in reference to every other process and phenomenon. Thus, with the help of accomodationism, the line between ‘evolution with a god’ moves much closer to that of ‘evolutionary creationism’.
Noting this, it is clear that those who believe in both a practically passive god and evolution may, while thankfully not believe in a ‘god of the gaps’, still believe in an imaginary omniscient male who lives in outer space. Though they may not support creationism of any stripe, their belief in this imaginary omniscient male may still provide fodder for the creationists (what’s to stop this omniscient male from becoming omnipotent?)
The evolutionary creationists, of course, are the true drivers of conflation of religious doctrine and modern science not just in theory, but in practice, and, thus, they must be opposed. Science combined with Occam’s Razor does not allow for a creator god, or a god of any kind.